The most important thing you can do today to get on your path to living an organized, decluttered life is to stop bringing clutter into your space to begin with. That may sound terribly obvious but I am always surprised at how often it is not mentioned or explicitly laid out in organizing and decluttering articles and books. How on earth can you possibly get organized, let alone stay organized if there is a constant stream of stuff coming into your already uncomfortably full space? You can't. The stuff creeps into your home and gets spread around your space, weighing you down, keeping you from finding what's really important (like car keys, permission slips and your phone charger to name a few). And the irony is that, for the most part, you don't even want this stuff. You just don't know what to do with it so it accumulates into bigger and bigger piles of stuff.
Look at it this way: those piles in your space are just piles of indecisions. Think about it. Each item needs to be dealt with and you are the decider. Do you love it? Is it useful? Do you have space for it? The best way to get a handle on all of this is to decide what do you want living with you in your precious space before you even walk through the front door. Here are seven simple ways to reduce that flow:
1. Just because it's free doesn't mean you need it. How many times have you been given a free tshirt or promotional item (magnet, mug, pen) and you brought it home and never used it? Do yourself a favor and politely say "No, thanks" when you are offered these little "gifts."
2. When you are out shopping at, say, Target, and you've run in for toilet paper and some socks, steel yourself against those sales racks and end caps. Seriously. Don't even look. You are not saving money if you are spending it. Whoever designed Target is a mad genius at getting us to think we need more stuff. We don't. Time yourself to get in and out of the store as fast as possible. The longer you stay in the store the more money you will spend and the more stuff will end up in your house.
3. If your are having a bad day and feel like some retail therapy, give yourself a limit of both time and money. Walk around with your would-be purchases for a while and give some serious thought about what you will do with this stuff when you get home. Imagine that cute blouse that's on sale (andyoujusthavetohaveit) and where it will go in your closet. Think about how well it's made and what it will go with that you already own. Be mindful of emotional purchases. They often end up as clutter in our homes and sometimes weigh us down with guilt.
4. Shop with a list and stick to it. This is true for all kinds of shopping not just the grocery store and Target. Before you head out, think about what you need to bring home and make a detailed list. If you don't, it's likely that you'll come home with a bunch of random stuff and will have forgotten what you actually needed to begin with. Lists give you control and a reality check. Try it.
5. Leave brochures, pamphlets, menus and newsletters where you find them. You can almost always find the information online and you'll have less paperwork to deal with. In the same vein think before you use your printer. Don't create more paper clutter than is absolutely necessary.
6. Reduce the stuff in your mailbox by unsubscribing from magazines you don't read (you can always redirect them to someone else or to an organization who would like them such as a nursing home) and canceling catalogs that are online anyway.
7. Hand me downs and other people's stuff are tough to say no to. If you are comfortable with being direct, than a polite "No, thank you" is best. If that's too uncomfortable (this is a tough one for me) and you do end up with their cast-offs, then remember this: they are giving you things that they don't want themselves and you should pass them on as you see fit. Guilt free.
If you spend a little time thinking about what is coming in your house you will be empowered to only let things in that you love, need and use. All the rest can go on its merry way!
I'm curious to know: how are you stopping clutter from coming into your space (virtual or physical)? Do you have any ways of stopping clutter from sneaking into your space? Any areas that are easier than others? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Photo by Katie Smith